Maroon Peak, also known as South Maroon, is an iconic Colorado 14er in the Elk Mountains, that is the larger of the Maroon Bells. These two peaks are some of the most photographed places in the country because of the extreme beauty. Hiking just Maroon, or both the bells is an intense endeavor, but extremely rewarding. Here is everything you need to know about hiking Maroon Peak.
Distance – 11.4 miles round trip (18.35 km)
Height – 14,156 feet (4314.75 m)
Elevation gain – 5,100 feet (1554.48 meters)
Duration – 10 – 12 hours (book time dependant upon trailhead start)
Difficulty – Strenuous
Class: Class 4 Hike
Trailhead Location – Maroon Lake Trailhead (9,560 feet)
Need To Know Information
- Parking in the summer is extremely hard to come by, and the process is a bit confusing. We explain all of this below.
- This is a class 4 hike with exposure. It should only be attempted by hikers that have other class 3 and 4 experience.
- There are many mountain goats on this hike during most of the summer season.
Hiking Route Options
There is only one common route to the summit of Maroon Peak. This summit may be combined with North Maroon Peak via the Maroon Bells Traverse, which is one of Colorado’s 4 great traverses and should only be done by experienced hikers and climbers. We will discuss this traverse in another article.
Maroon Lake Trailhead | 11.4 Miles Round Trip (18.35 km) – 5,500 Feet Elevation Gain (1554.48 meters) | Class 4
Begin at the parking lot for Maroon Lake along the Maroon Snowmass Trail. .5 miles in, hikers will reach the junction for the scenic loop trail, and they should stay to the right along the Maroon Snowmass Trail towards Crater Lake. 1.6 miles in, hikers will reach the junction that heads up towards Pyramid Peak, hikers continue straight.
Less than .5 miles later, hikers will reach a junction where the right is towards Snowmass, but hikers will bear left towards Crater Lake. From the stream that flows into Crater Lake, hikers continue another 1.4 miles, and pass the Crater Lake campsites (mentioned below). There will be an unmarked junction, where hikers should bear left and begin the first part of the hike where the ascent gets quite steep. From here, hikes follow cairns up the very steep trail and gain the south ridge of Maroon Peak. This ridge is gained at about 13,340 feet. From here the hike begins the class 3 and 4 difficult terrain that will take a significant amount of time to complete. 1.5-2.5 hours to summit from here, be sure to scope out weather.
Hikers stay west of the ridge (left on the way up), via the safest route. From here, route finding is considered difficult, however the trail is clearly well traveled and is well cairned all the way to the summit. Route finding experience is highly recommended before attempting this peak. We highly recommend consulting our photos below for route information, but also consulting 14ers.com and other resources on this hike for route finding information. The more prepared you are, the better. Bring along photos from this site and others for route finding help.
Camping For Maroon Peak
Most people doing Maroon Peak, Pyramid Peak, or the Bells Traverse as an overnight hike will camp out at Crater Lake, which has 11 campsites. If all spots are filled, campers can camp as long as they are .25 miles away from the lake. Information on camping can be found here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whiteriver/recarea/?recid=40563
The difficult part of camping here is landing an overnight parking permit, or arranging being dropped off. Parking reservation or shuttle reservations to the lake can be found here: https://aspenchamber.org/plan-trip/trip-highlights/maroon-bells/reservations. Hikers can be dropped off between 6-8 am without a parking reservation. Hikers are required to purchase a one way shuttle back down to Aspen Highlands on the way out unless someone is picking you up after 5pm.
In addition to the Crater Lake Options, there are several campgrounds along the road to Maroon Lake. Below we order them as the closest to Maroon lake first:
Current Weather Conditions:
Here is the detailed weather forecast for the next few days. We highly recommend you check out the mountain forecast for this peak the morning of your hike.
Snowmass Village, CO
A slight chance of snow showers after 5pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 27. West northwest wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
A chance of snow showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 18. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.
A chance of snow showers before 9am, then snow showers likely and a chance of thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 25. West northwest wind 5 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.
A chance of snow showers and a chance of thunderstorms before midnight. Partly cloudy, with a low around 16. Northwest wind 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunny, with a high near 33. Northwest wind 15 to 20 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 24.
Sunny, with a high near 42.
Directions & Parking
From the roundabout, take the exit for Maroon Creek Road. Follow the road until the Aspen Highlands Center. If you are day hiking or don’t have a parking pass, you will need to park here and take the suttle. Continue along the road if you are traveling to Maroon Lake Trailhead.
Important Note: Read our camping section above for more information on parking fees, shuttle use, overnight parking, times you can enter, and dropoff information.
Directions to Maroon Lake Trailhead:
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about